If you ask your mother, grandmother, daughter or sister, pay discrimination based on gender still exists. Equal pay for equal work should not be a partisan issue, and the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) is a common sense solution to strengthen the 1963 Equal Pay Act. Yet like so many issues in Washington, a proposal to tackle this economic issue is being stalled by partisan gridlock.
From early in my career, I saw that pay inequity was a real issue facing women in the work place. I was working for a property management company here in Miami, I found myself in competition for a position against a male colleague for a promotion. In addition to being a few months from an MBA from the University of Miami, I had more years of property management experience compared to my competitor. I worked hard to get the position, going through multiple interviews with the board and making a strong case for my credentials. Although I was selected for the position, I was informed that my salary would be $10,000 less than that discussed with my male competitor.
I was outraged. I had the experience and skillset, yet I was denied compensation because I was a woman. I demanded an explanation, but the company refused to explain why my salary was lower than a male's in the same position. I could not keep working at a place that valued me less because of my gender, and I handed in my notice and moved on. The man that I had beat out for the position was granted the job -- he received the $10,000 extra that I was apparently not worth.
Even though women are a greater part of the workforce than they have ever been, women in Florida still only make $.80 for every dollar a man earns. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when I was born in the early 1970s, only about 43 percent of working aged women participated in the labor force, barely half the rate of similarly aged men. In 2010, that number had climbed to 58.6 percent. And as women expanded their role in the workplace, they also expanded their value through higher levels of educational attainment. Over a similar period, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the share of women enrolled at degree granting institutions grew from 41 percent to 57 percent.
America's edge in the global economy is based on our deeply educated and skilled workers that comprise one of the most productive workforces in the world. More than 40 million women workers have been added since 1970, and they're a critical part of our economic engine. At the end of the day, gender equality in the workforce isn't just about benefiting the women who would receive the wages they deserve, but about benefiting our economy as a whole by providing the kind of skilled, sought after workers that we need to grow and be globally competitive.
The Paycheck Fairness Act is a necessary step to promote equality. The act would provide greater transparency and recourse for the targets of wage discrimination, and prohibit retaliation against employees who seek to be paid their worth. These measures are necessary if we really believe that people should be compensated based on their work, not their gender. But in a Washington where political opportunism long ago replaced pragmatic problem solving, Congressional Republicans shot down this bill in yet another strike against the common sense that we've been missing on Capitol Hill for years.
These measures are certainly attempts to build a society around the concepts of basic fairness and equality that we hold as our nation's founding creed, but they're also long term investments in the health of our economy. Unfortunately, the common-sense PFA -- just like numerous jobs bills, the Violence Against Women Act, and other key priorities -- was yet another victim of a Washington culture more focused on politics than solutions.